Wedding Weekend: Ideas to Inspire More Than Just the Big Day

Whether your wedding is an intimate affair or a gala-style fête, chances are you will be entertaining out-of-town guests. Show them some Minnesota hospitality by hosting a weekend to remember.
From: Spring/Summer 2013 edition

The dresses, the flowers, the cake… the plane tickets, the hotel rooms, the taxis. Traveling to attend a wedding has become the new norm, and guests often invest a lot of time and money to spend the weekend in an unfamiliar city. Recognizing the tremendous efforts of their out-of-town guests, brides are showing their appreciation by providing opportunities to spend time with their guests throughout the weekend and making sure their guests have fun and feel welcome.

Recent bride Laura Soderlund, of Duluth, emphasizes how important it was that her guests get a warm reception during her wedding weekend. “A lot of our guests traveled a long way to be at our wedding,” she says. “For many of them, it was their first time in Duluth. We wanted them to feel welcome.”

Soderlund and her husband showed their appreciation for their out-of-town guests by preparing welcome bags filled with homemade snacks, coupon books for popular locations in Duluth, travel information and the weekend itinerary, as well as a list of places for guests to visit that are special to them as a couple. They even tied personal stories into each of the locations, such as where her husband proposed or favorite restaurants. “I heard a lot of positive feedback,” she recalls. “People were very grateful for it.”

Welcome to Town

Starting out with a bang sets the stage for a successful wedding weekend. Many brides, however, struggle with the best way to welcome guests to town. The night before the wedding tends to be a busy time, and many couples prefer to reserve that time for the rehearsal dinner with immediate family and the wedding party. To spend time with other guests without inviting everyone to the rehearsal dinner, Sarah Trotter, owner of Lasting Impressions Weddings in Minnetonka, suggests hosting a welcome reception following the rehearsal dinner.

“I’ve had numerous couples host a rehearsal dinner for the wedding party and then have a cocktail reception for the rest of the guests later in the evening,” Trotter says. “It allows other guests to join in the festivities without the bride and groom feeling like they need to invite everyone to the rehearsal dinner.”

Welcome gatherings can come in a variety of forms. Soderlund, for example, chose to keep things casual the night before her Duluth wedding by having a bonfire following her rehearsal dinner. “It was very laid-back,” she says, “which is exactly what I needed the night before my big day.”

Itinerary Planning
While some couples just provide suggestions for activities during their wedding weekend, others choose to arrange a scheduled itinerary for their guests. If you’re taking this approach, Stephanie Johnson of Park Place Planning in Mendota Heights highly recommends focusing on local activities.

“Highlighting local specialties is huge right now,” says Johnson. “Wine tasting and grape stomping at one of the St. Croix vineyards, golf outings at Minnesota’s finest courses, spa days at the Hotel Ivy, renting pontoon boats on Lake Minnetonka—couples are showing off all that Minnesota has to offer.” From our more than 10,000 lakes to a variety of historical and cultural events, wedding weekend activities in Minnesota can run the gamut of the couple’s imagination.

For active groups, lawn bowling at Brit’s Pub or get-togethers at a local bowling alley such as Bryant Lake Bowl or Elsie’s (all in Minneapolis) are fun options. For groups unfamiliar with the area, why not provide your guests with a tour of Minneapolis or St. Paul? Twin City Trolleys can provide narrated historic tours for your private group, or you can hit the water with a riverboat tour from Twin Cities Cruises

When scheduling activities during a wedding weekend, be aware that guests will not only need a detailed itinerary, but also a way to get from point A to point B. Trotter highly recommends providing some form of transportation, especially if a lot of guests are traveling by plane. “Hiring transportation for arranged activities can make things run more smoothly, keep things on time and alleviate stress for your guests,” she notes.

Budget Friendly
Hosting wedding weekend activities doesn’t have to break the bank. For brides on a budget, Minnesota has plenty to offer. Invite guests to enjoy a gathering on a lake, take a stroll through the Lyndale Park Rose Gardens, make a stop at the Como Conservatory in St. Paul or enjoy the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Many local breweries, such as Summit and Surly, provide free tours of their facilities.

“There are plenty of activities that couples can offer without having to spend extra money,” says Trotter. “Don’t let your budget prevent you from enjoying extra time with your guests.”

Trotter’s budget-savvy suggestion is to schedule a non-hosted gathering at a local restaurant or bar. “The bride and groom can facilitate the location, then individual guests can pay their own way,” she says. “It’s a nice gesture and people can still spend time with the bride and groom.”

Sage Advice
Regardless of how a couple chooses to host their wedding weekend, making guests feel welcome and appreciated is the key to wedding weekend success. Whether you simply offer helpful tips or plan a full schedule of events, wedding weekend activities should be enjoyable for everyone. Clearly communicating your itinerary and keeping a realistic timeline will ensure that things run smoothly and that everyone has a good time.

Also, keep in mind the personalities and interests of your guests. “I’ve had couples do everything from arranging trips to a Twins’ baseball game to boat rides on Lake Minnetonka,” comments Trotter. “It’s all about knowing your guests and what they like to do.”

Couples should plan only as many activities as they feel comfortable attending during an already busy weekend. “Make sure you are setting up activities that you are going to be able to enjoy,” Trotter adds. “Don’t get so preoccupied with all the events and forget why everyone is there, and that’s to celebrate your marriage.”

 

The Welcome Bag
A welcome gift is the perfect way to greet your out-of-town guests and set the stage for a fun wedding weekend. Help your guests feel at home with a stylish tote, a colorful gift bag or a basket full of goodies. Many hotels will deliver gifts directly to your guests’ rooms or distribute them at the reception desk. When it comes to making your welcome gifts, just enlist your bridesmaids and a bottle of wine, and let the assembling begin! Use these fun yet practical ideas to create the ultimate welcome gift:

  • A personalized note Nothing says “welcome” better than a sincere handwritten note from the bride and groom.
  • Weekend itinerary Keep guests informed of weekend activities by providing an itinerary, including details about any transportation you are providing.
  • Contact information Provide your guests with a point person they can contact in case they have any questions. Tip: Make it someone other than you!
  • Map Point out some of your favorite places within walking distance of the hotel. Bonus: Tie in a story about why you and your fiancé love each location.
  • Local treats Treat your guests to some local delights with Minnesota-themed snacks. Think: Pearson’s Nut Goodies, Honeycrisp apples or B.T. McElrath chocolates.
  • Wedding-related necessities Having an outdoor wedding? Provide your guests with sunscreen or bug spray. Planning a late-night reception? Provide bottled water and aspirin for the next morning.
  • Postcards Make your guests feel like they are truly on vacation by providing a stamped postcard they can send back home.